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Motorola DROID 3 Review – Verizon

 

Our keyboarded friend has returned as the DROID3 by Motorola.  With a set of specs straight out of this year (dual-core processor, front and rear cameras, and a “qHD” screen), this phone could be the best yet from Verizon in 2011.  We have been waiting as patiently as we can for them to bring us something current, and this is the first device that at least on paper, looks like it could deliver.  This phone has us hoping that Big Red will cut off all of last year’s tech and start dropping some all-in-one packages.  So D3, can you bring Big Red up to speed with the rest of the Android crowd?  

The Good:

  • Hardware:  Motorola still knows how to do hardware for the most part.  We may despise the inexpensive screen technology that they’ve gone with, but we’re definitely fans of them tossing in the brand new dual-core OMAP4430 along with dual cameras, a really spicy slideout keyboard and a dedicated HDMI-out port.  They may make questionable software at times, but they can still build a phone.
  • Feel:  In hand at first, the DROID3 feels a little heavy, but as you continue to use it you get used to the heft.  It is actually lighter than the HTC Thunderbolt which is surprising since it has a big ol’ keyboard attached.  The 4″ screen is still one of the best sizes you’ll find on any phone, so in hand, you never feel uncomfortable holding it.  Some 4.3″ devices are tough to use as one-handed devices – the D3 is definitely not.
  • Battery:  Battery life for me has to this point been phenomenal.  As you can see from the screenshot below, I’m well into a full day and still have 41% left on my charge.  It may look like the phone is spending all of its time in standby or idle, but I’d love for anyone to show me a phone that can even last this long doing just that.  The Thunderbolt sure as hell isn’t lasting a full day on standby.  I’m not sure if this battery success has to do with Moto’s qHD screens, the OMAP processor or some combination of both. No matter what, I’m a fan.

  • Android 2.3.4:  If Motorola and Verizon are going to continue to put out a new slideout version of the DROID each year, we hope they keep up the tradition of launching it with the newest version of Android available.  This is 2 years in a row now that they’ve made this device the most current and we’re loving it.  As I’ve said in other reviews, Gingerbread actually feels like the polished and incredibly stable OS that we’ve been begging for.  The steps that the Android team has taken to make it the best mobile OS on the planet are clearly seen in 2.3.4.
  • Physical keyboard:  The DROID2 had a horrible keyboard.  The DROID3′s is awesome.  5-rows and just enough of a bump on each key make this one of the best physical keyboards we’ve ever used.  I’ll admit that it took some getting used to, but that’s only because I’m an on-screen touch kinda guy and really just had to learn the benefits of a physical keyboard again.  Huge +1 to Motorola this time around.

  • Front camera:  It’s only VGA, but it works quite nicely in video chats and even takes some decent pictures.  One thing to note, is the front camera is NOT troubled by that blue tint that the rear camera is.  We’ll get to that later.

 

  • New Blur:  I’m actually pretty torn on this one.  The new Blur featured on the DROID3 (yes, it’s different than the new Blur on the DROIDX) is not bad at all.  You can tell that Motorola has really put some time into making this more than just a bunch of intrusive garbage.  There are 3D transitions, a whole pile of shiny glossy things happening, and even some additional functionality that comes in handy (screen previews, custom dock, new lockscreen, etc.).  The app drawer overhaul is welcomed, especially since you can make a folder without bloatware that will launch every time you open it.  There are definitely some drawbacks though, but we’ll get to those in the next section.
  • Video recording (1080p):  OK, so the 1080p video I’ve included below isn’t going to win any Oscars especially with that nasty cloud-covered Portland light, but at least you can record in full HD and then play it back on your TV.  We wish every single phone going forward would do 1080p.
YouTube Preview Image
  • HDMI-out port:  These should come standard on every phone in 2011+.  If your phone isn’t capable of connecting to a TV, it’s not a phone of the future and should be passed over.  We’re getting to that point where phones are taking HD-quality video, so we need an easy way to share and this is it.

The Not-so-Good:

  • Screen:  Pretty sure you guys know how I feel about Motorola’s PenTile matrix screens at this point, don’t you?  The DROID3′s is exactly like the DROIDX2′s only .3″ smaller, so it is not quite as unbearable.  It’ll still give you headaches if you scroll too quickly through anything though, and it leaves massive ghosting trails in games or basically anything with quickly moving objects.  It can’t render certain colors, it leaves pixels incredibly noticeable, and again, is not my favorite.  Hey, but it does wonders on battery life though!
  • Not 4G LTE:  I hate to call any phone with DROID branding on it a “filler device”, but what else can we call this?  Verizon barely acknowledged its existence, there has not been one commercial made for it, and most people outside of the tech world don’t even know that it’s available.  And you know why?  Because it’s not 4G LTE.  Had they tossed in an LTE radio, this thing would have been blasted across billboards and your television.  Unfortunately for this phone, 3G technology is no longer in the marketing budget.
  • Camera:  We heard a lot of rumors leading up to the release of this device (and the Bionic) which suggested that Motorola was going to introduce new cameras and software that were capable of taking some of the best pictures ever on a mobile device.  Well, we’re hoping they get it right with the Bionic because the level of blue tint that this phone puts on photos is something else.  I posted the best 4 I could take with it below that had the least amount of blue – not an easy task.  There are almost zero camera settings that can be adjusted, so if you want your photos to look less Smurf’d, then you’ll have to invest in a 3rd party camera app.

(click images for larger versions)

 
 

  • Software bugs (New Blur):  Motorola has done a lot of good things with this new Blur, but there are still some things that need to be worked out in a hurry to make most of us not scream for stock.  The biggest one for me is the home redraw issue.  We’ve seen this on a number of their devices, so I’m not 100% surprised at this phone having it, but was definitely hoping the dual-core processor would take care of it.  Try going into the camera app, then exit back home and count how many seconds it takes for your home screens to all reappear…still counting?  I’m also not a huge fan of long pressing on an app in the app drawer and not being able to quickly place it on a home screen.  This is one of those Blur features that hampers on a basic principal of Android.  And then there is that feeling of a lack of control due to too much going on.  With all the 3D and fancy transitions, you start to wonder if you have any control at all.
  • Lock button:  If you thought the Thunderbolt’s lock button was tough to tap, wait until you get a hold of this phone.  First of all, it’s in a really awkward spot in the middle, up top on the keyboard half of the phone.  The problem though, is that you feel like you have to hammer on the thing to get it to work.  I constantly found myself tapping it 2-3 times without it doing anything.
  • Call quality:  I usually won’t include call quality as a bullet point since most phones these days do a pretty good job in this department, but something just stuck out while on calls with this phone.  There just seems to be an extra layer of fuzz as compared to the Thunderbolt or Galaxy S II.  By no means does it make the phone not usable as a phone, it’s just something I noticed on a regular basis.
  • Bloatware:  Official count is 22 bloatware apps.    We counted 21 on the DROIDX2, so that means Verizon decided to step their game up this time around.  Oh, and there could have been more – we may have uninstalled 1 or 2 since they are letting you do that just a bit these days.

Quick Walk-through and Hands-on:

YouTube Preview Image

Benchmarks:

  

To see how the DROID3 performed in our full series of benchmarks and to see how it compared to the Samsung Galaxy S II and DROIDX2, you’ll want to check out this post.

Gallery:

The Verdict:

As to not beat around the bush too much, I’ll just come out and say that the DROID3 is a pretty damn good device.  It’s lacking 4G LTE support which is a deal killer for many of you, but that doesn’t mean this phone isn’t a major player.  The specs all line up, Blur has come a long way, it’s running Android 2.3.4, and technically, can take some pretty mean pictures as long as you ditch the stock software.  I would highly recommend that you install a 3rd party launcher as well, since my device seems to suffer from redraw problems.  But most of you do that anyway.  The battery life is stellar, the screen can be dealt with if you are blind (kidding!), and for a physical keyboard, you aren’t going to do much better than this.

I’m not going to do a comparison to the DROID Bionic or Galaxy S II because this phone is in a different category.  It’s not meant to be a flagship, but it’s still an above average device that should last you the life of a contract.  At $199 on a 2-year deal or $459 without, it’s not overpriced by any means and lines right up with other new non-4G releases yet has far better specs.  If you want that all-in-one monster though, we’ll unfortunately have to tell you to wait just a little bit longer.

Motorola DROID 3 Specs | Other DROID 3 Coverage

  • Woodsonsounequa

    i just bought it and i am happy with it

  • TexasBride

    I just got the droid 3 as a gift from my fiancee, 3 weeks ago. It’s super fast, weighs less and I luv the slider keypad. I’m not crazy about the camera-a lil slow to take pic.. It is true, u have to literally use a hammer to push the on/off button several times..I thought it was just me. Lastly, the battery life is poor. Drains too quickly. I have the advanced task killer but still drains too fast. I wish Verizon had a larger selection of covers for the phone
    . It’s got lots n lots of apps. I luv the motor print app–let’s me print-awesome.
    All in all, it’s a real good phone…as well as the droid earpiece..
    Still learning how to use it, but all and all, it’s the best so far

  • Man-Droid

    Disagree with screen – quality is AWESOME. Compares VERY close to the new Bionic, 4G LTE is main difference and no lap-dock capability. The right set of players rooting this beast will have a lot of toy to play with!

    • http://www.thehumangrowthhormone.com/genf20-plus-review/ GenF20 Plus

      Motorola has done a really good job by making it better and improving performance

  • OrlandoBob

    Finally got my Droid 3 (last Friday after work) and had it rooted before the evening was over.  Awesome phone!!!  ‘Nuf said.

  • 671 Droid User

    I need to know when the Droid 3 will get to Guam. Im a huge Droid fan I want the Droid 3. Can anyone find out for me. It’ll be greatly appreciated. Thanks Droid users.

  • OrlandoBob

    My local Verizon store contact me regarding the Droid 3 I was to have held after they received their shipment yesterday.  Seems there is a world wide shortage of them.  They’re even sold out at Best Buy in the store AND online.  After checking around, it looks like mid September before they start showing up in stores.  Guess I’ll just have to live with my trusty Droid 1 for a little longer.  Must be a HOT item.  Sounds good to me.  I will survive!!!  ;-)

  • 671 Droid User

    When will the Droid 3 arrive on Guam? Can anyone find out for me please? I really want to know.

  • http://twitter.com/XSYLUS_DEV XSYLUS_DEV

    Eh, it’s okay but I’m sticking with my OG Droid 1 for the foreseeable future.  I saw the D3 dummy phone at Sam’s Club.  I couldn’t really get a feel for it since it was just the shell and not functional or the real weight.  I totally hate the metallic crap around the LCD.  It looks cheap and tacky and I imagine it would probably start flaking off after a short period of usage.  I’ve had my OG Droid 1 since 2009; I got it a few months after they came out to replace my pathetic Motorola RAZR v3c.  I’m not like the average consumer who replaces their phone every 3 to 6 months.  I find something that works for me and I stick with it.  Besides my Droid 1 runs Android 2.3.5 with the best of them.  =D

  • http://twitter.com/XSYLUS_DEV XSYLUS_DEV

    Eh, it’s okay but I’m sticking with my OG Droid 1 for the foreseeable future.  I saw the D3 dummy phone at Sam’s Club.  I couldn’t really get a feel for it since it was just the shell and not functional or the real weight.  I totally hate the metallic crap around the LCD.  It looks cheap and tacky and I imagine it would probably start flaking off after a short period of usage.  I’ve had my OG Droid 1 since 2009; I got it a few months after they came out to replace my pathetic Motorola RAZR v3c.  I’m not like the average consumer who replaces their phone every 3 to 6 months.  I find something that works for me and I stick with it.  Besides my Droid 1 runs Android 2.3.5 with the best of them.  =D

  • Richard Merrigan

    I own the Droid-2 currently and I would like to that I hate It constantly has to be on a charger, and yes I have tried all the app. killer apps and none of them are worth a hill of beans.  It also freezes for no reason and I have to pull the battery to shut it off and reboot it and those are just a few reasons.  
    All my friends, most of them former Droid owners have iphones and they love them.  I will never buy another phone, and neither will they, other that an iphone.  It’s the only smart phone that really understands and works with the smart phone technology…

    Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

    Sincerely

    • Jonathan Hunt

      I don’t take advice from people that use the phrase “hill of beans”.

      I had an Original Droid for almost two years and never had a problem with the battery life or freezing and it still continues to function properly.  I’ve had a Droid 3 for almost two months now, and I’ve not had problems with battery life or freezing.

    • OrlandoBob

      I would never own an iphone.  Their apps need to be approved by Apple, so I heard.  I’ve had the original Droid for over 2 years and LOVE it!  No No No problems at all.  Rooted and running CyanogenMod 7.0.  I have a Droid 3 on hold at the local Verizon store and will pick it up later today.

    • OrlandoBob

      I forgot… I really like the physical keyboard on my Droid 1, and will like the one on the Droid 3.  I do not like virtual keyboards.  I learned to type on manual typewriters.  Remember them?  Plus, it opens up the screen to full view.

  • Joanthan Gery

    :( I have only had my D3 a month, 3G Antenna has gone bust. Big Red has been a PITA as well… :(

  • slickrc

    The Motorola XT860 4G ( DROID 3 ).  this would be the best phone.  slider, spaced out screen and physical keys, 8mp, 1080 video, and 4G.  whats wrong with this…..only in canada for a company name Bell Mobile

  • Anonymous

    I’m sure that the blue tint is actually a software correctable white balance issue.

    • Jessica Casteel

      I am able to correct it with either the Little Photo App on my phone, or the Picnik App for my Chromebook

  • Melkor849

    I would totally go for this, but alas, I have about a year and a half left on my contract. Oh well. Maybe I’ll go for the Droid4. I needs my physical keyboard. ;)

  • Anonymous

    I’ll be keeping my droid x

  • Rxd165

    Can someone please point me in the direction of a good  3rd party camera app.?

    • Jessica Casteel

      Little Photo is nice, I currently have this on my phone till Instagram comes to the Android Market.  Little Photo has just bit to many options for me, lol

  • Dreedy Android

    Hey Droid-Life, I was wondering since you say and show that the camera do put off a bad blue tint in the pics and suggest installing a 3rd party camera app, if you guys could do research on what ya’ll think is the best camera app out there and do a review on it.

  • Knlegend1

    Okay who makes a good third party camera app?

  • Knlegend1

    Okay who makes a good third party camera app?

    • http://infotainmentempire.blogspot.com Rob

      Vignette, Retro Camera+

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=25419359 James De Angelis

    just returned my droid 3, i feel like its the same as a droid 2, still keeping my og droid for now! take that verizon, atleast i got to use the d3 for 2 weeks for 35 bucks… not bad, the only thing i liked is the camera set up

    the batt was insanely good, i would go to work at 9am and come home at midnight and still have battery life!

  • Stelv81

    “It may look like the phone is spending all of its time in standby or idle, but I’d love for anyone to show me a phone that can even last this long doing just that.”….Well the Droid Incredible 2 gets 20+ hours easy with moderate to high use. Thats with auto sync, gps and wireless on all day.

  • Steelhand

    What 3rd party camera app do you recommend?

  • Steelhand

    What 3rd party app do you recommend?

  • Drew

    Anybody else’s Droid 3 have a squeaky keyboard? Also, does the vibrate work differently on the Droid 3 vs. the Droid 2 (my last device) . . . it has a strange feel/sound to it.

  • TheNuttyTrinitron

    Great review Kellex.  Covered pretty much everything.  Thanks!

  • Dwizzler1

    Phone sux baawwwls. My iphone does it right.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1368032580 James E. Burkett

      No offense, well, I take that back- Offense. If you have a iTrash.. er.. iPhone you need to just get over to the apple forums and stop spewing your trash on Droid Life. Thank you and Goodbye

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  • chris romero

    I am very happy with my droid3 if you are old school and like the physical keyboard then this might be for you this is excellent as a work horse for business professionals, I have no issues with the pentile screen very snappy especially with pinch and considering it is 3G it is pretty darn fast must be the cortex A9 thats inside which allows it to handle streaming video and audio alot easier.

  • chris romero

    I am very happy with my droid3 if you are old school and like the physical keyboard then this might be for you this is excellent as a work horse for business professionals, I have no issues with the pentile screen very snappy especially with pinch and considering it is 3G it is pretty darn fast must be the cortex A9 thats inside which allows it to handle streaming video and audio alot easier.

  • RavnosCC

    Can’t believe they crippled this phone with that horrible screen :(   booo-urns

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  • Anonymous

    head on over to vzw website. They just launched a Back2School Promo.

    Buy
    1 Get 1 for the Droid3 (u must renew contract for each
    device, but not necessarily activate the phone on those lines from what
    I understood.)
    Public listing is $199.99 w 2yr contract for both.
    Many are logging in and adding to cart to see the D3 show as $149.99.
    (as I have for renewing contract on my 2ndary family lines)
    so
    that’s $75$ each off the bat. great price for a top tier smartphone that
    just released a wk ago.~! (or $100 each if you can only see the $199
    price.

    THEN…instead of placing the order online, I called in to
    Sales and asked if i would be able to get any additional offers of free
    accessories if I place the order over the phone instead (you kno, since
    they get commission for the sale). He looks into it and tells me he cant
    give me any accessories, but he can throw in a free month of service
    credit to my primary line.

    After the Credit discount, my total cost for TWO D3s came out to $71.70.btw, i spoke w ‘James’ this morning if u could find the same guy.

    If you dont have two lines to upgrade, then chk out LetsTalk, Wirefly or Amazon, they have 70$ deals on individual lines.

  • http://profiles.google.com/statsprofessor Jakub Palka

    Canada is getting it with fake 4g. 

     

  • http://profiles.google.com/bighugstudio big hug studio

    Funny they had a droid 3 vs thunderbolt comparison on phone arena and the Droid 3 screen actually looks better in the video.  Headaches from Pentile….lol  After 3 months of it, never had one or ghosting trails.  The green battery icon pixels are a bit more noticable if you look up close but it’s not as bad as all media people making it out to be. 

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  • meth feld

    I love my droid 3   the keyboard is absolutely amazing to use, there isnt that horrible auto correct to deal with, the phone call quality is ok….overall excellent device.  Personally i am glad that its under the radar…..who wants to own the same thing everyone else does, and on the subject of 3g lte etc……I’m not a techie and dont really understand the fuss…..my area doesnt even have 4g even though i have the phone (htc evo) and secondly, isnt wifi even better than 4g?  hardly anywhere i go these days doesnt have wifi, so who needs 10g (jk) to begin with?? 

    thanks for the great review

    • dieringer scott

      verizons 4g is about as fast as wifi

  • Tarsis Brito

    nice work kellex you are the best :)

  • Dostovel

    That’s one ugly ass cat. I hope it’s your girlfriend’s or something…

  • SprottheDestroyer

    i already saw this phone as a buy one get one at a verizon store here in south texas. guess its not selling so well

  • Yastern

    I am enjoying this phone tremendously. The screen seems fine to me.
    one point that has not been mentioned here. The D3 is a global phone. This is an amazing convenience if you travel. That plus the keyboard convinced me to go with this one.